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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  July 16, 2014 12:00pm-2:01pm EDT

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religious freedom they so ardently proclaimed? because charge the democrats charge thawrnd the supreme court decision, an employer's personal views can interfere with women's essential health services. they say that corporations can limit their employees' health care options and restrict their freedoms. madam president, that is not true. it is patently false. it is absurd. it is wrong. in the words of the "washington post" nonpartisan fact-checker lynn kessler, nothing in the ruling allows a company to stop a woman from getting or filling a prescription for contraceptives. second, democrats need to be more careful, the fact-checker
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say, in their language about the ruling. all too often lawmakers leap to conclusions that are not warranted by the facts. simply put, the court ruling does not outlaw contraceptives, does not allow bosses to prevent women from seeking birth control, and does not take away a person's religious freedom. i ask consent to include in the record the fact-checker's full remarks. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. alexander: today women have the same rights before obamacare. the supreme court decision did not at least in terms of religious freedom they do. the supreme court decision did nothing to change or alter a woman's ability to access birth control or other contraceptive care. hobby lobby's insurance today already covers 16 of 20 forms of contraception for the company's employees. a hobby lobby employee who wishes to use a device not covered by the company's insurance is in no way prohibited from purchasing it -- is in no way prohibited from
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tching. nothing in the hobby lobby decision prevents a woman from making a decision about contraception, her own decision about contraception. the only exception is that certain employers cannot be forced to include in their insurance coverage against their religious objections. the supreme court decision covered certain closely held for-profit companies they're controlled by five or fewer individuals, where the owners have sincere religious beliefs. the court's decision does not mean that all americans of faith who own businesses and ask for a religious exemption from a general law will receive that exemption. and the court's decision does not mean that employers will be able to use the religious freedom restoration act are as a reason to refuse to cover critical health services such as vaccines, blood fusions.
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such objections were held before obamacare. 20 years later those doomsday predictions have not come true. courts are well-equipped to dispel spurious or frivolous claims. i think the democrats know all of this. i think they are a jus just tryo win an election. the freedom suprem supreme cours about individual freedoms. it was not about contra-accept e rights. what is really happening is that my friends on the other side of the aisle are trying to change the subject. they want to talk about health care, but they don't want to talk about obamacare and when it is doing to the women of this country. and let me tell you a story that gives you an example. that's what really concerns me. first what concerns me is the destruction of anyone's religious freedom.
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but if we're talking about women and health care, let me tell you about emily of lawrenceburg. she has lupus. she had under tennessee's policies an insurance policy granted by something called cover 10. it was created by our democratic governor and blue cross. it gave her the policy that she needed to provide health insurance for a 39-year-old woman with lupus at a cost of about $50 a month. when obamacare arrived, it canceled emily's policy. she went on the exchange to try to replace it, according to washington's wisdom, and this is what swleet to me. "i cannot keep" -- this is emily, a real woman in tennessee who is really hurt by the obamacare law. we should be talking about her. she says, "i cannot keep my current plan because it doesn't meet the standards of coverage.
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this alone is a travesty. cover 10 has been a lifeline for me. with the discontinuation of cover 10, i am being forced to purchase a plan through the exchange. my insurance premiums alone will increase a staggering 410%. my out-of-pocket expenses will increase by more than $6,000 a year. that includes subsidies. please help me understand how this is affordable." here is an american woman who's been hurt by obamacare. in fact, she lost her policy, a policy that she could afford. it fit her health care needs, it fit her budget because all the wise people in washington said, this is the policy that you need. so she got the policy that obamacare said she should have, and her insurance premiums went up to $350 or $400 a month, and she got an insurance policy that does not fit her budget and does not fit her health care needs.
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she's the one who's been hurt and, unfortunately, emily is not the only one experiencing rate shock. millions of americans are losing their insurance plans. they're being forced to buy you? plans. -- to buy new plans, many of them with higher premiums, many of them with higher deductibles, many of them with coinsurance. let me tell you about another tennessee woman whose name is carol, a single mom with a son starting at austin p. university in the fall. she is an office administrator in an office that used to have cover 10 insurance that cost less than $is 00 a month in -- less than $100 a month in premiums and covered all of her health care needs. "thanks to obamacare, i must pay over $300 a month, compared with $100 a month, and insurance premiums for a follows that has a $2,500 deductible and a $4,000 out-of-pocket limit." if we want to talk about a war on wither let's talk about a
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wore -- on women, let's talk about emily and carol in tennessee -- and millions of other women who are hurt by obamacare. carol earns too much to qualify for a subsidy, so now she puts a big chunk of her income toward her premiums, such a big chunk that she can't afford to help pay for her son's education. these are the kinds of stories all of us hear from people who are being harmed by obamacare. these are the kinds of stories that our friends on the other side don't want repeated, so they bring up -- so they even go so far as to bring up carving big chunks out of america's character by trampling on religious freedom, the freedom that's talked about in the first amendment. we have proposals to help americans like carol, americans like emily. we have offered them on this senate floor repeatedly since
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2010 when the obamacare law was apassed. they would move our country in a different direction toward health care, as rapidly and as responsibly as we could go, a direction toward more freedom, more choices and lower costs for emily and for carol, for millions of women and millions of men and millions of younger people, men appeared women across this country. -- men and women ako across. our bills would allow americans to keep more of their insurance plans, as the president promised. our bills would allow people to buy insurance in another state, if it fits your budget and needs. let's say emily, who has lupus, finds a policy regulated in kentucky that fits her budget and fits her needs. we would allow emily to buy that. we would allow small business employers to combine purchasing power with other employers and
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offer their employees lower-cost insurance. more freedom, more choices, lower costs. we would allow americans to buy major medical plans to insure them against a catastrophe. today some americans can, but under obamacare, all americans cannot. insure against catastrophe, and then buy a health care savings account that is expanded to pay for everyday expenses. more freedom, more choices, lower costs. we would like to repair the damage obamacare has done. we would like to prevent future damage. republicans want to move in a different direction that provides more freedom, more choices, lower costs. we trust americans to make decisions for ourselves. that is the american way. that is what we believe in. religious freedom and health care freedom -- that is the american way.
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mr. president, i thank the chair, and i yield the floor. and i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: the presiding officer: the senator from tennessee. mr. alexander: may i ask consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. alexander: and, may i ask consent to include, following my remarks, in addition to the article from "the washington post" fact-checker, an excellent editorial today in "the wall street journal," an op-ed by the senator from new hampshire and the senator from nebraska, senators ayotte and senator fischer." the presiding officer: without objection.
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mr. alexander: mr. president, i notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky. mr. paul: i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. question is on confirmation of the nomination -- the question is on confirmation of the nomination. is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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vote:
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vote:
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the presiding officer: are there any senators wishing to vote or to change their vote? seeing none, on the confirmation, there are 53 yeas and 44 nays. and the nomination is confirmed.
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under the previous order, the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table, the president will be immediately notified of the senate's action and the senate will resume legislative session. the presiding officer: the senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to s. 2578 and under the previous order, the time until 2:00 p.m. will be equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees. the presiding officer: does any senator yield time?
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if no one yields time, time will be charged equally to both sides.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from utah. mr. lee: mr. president, the most extraordinary feature of the bill before us today is the incongruity between the bill's title and its content. the title, "the protect women's health from corporate interference act," is clear and
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straightforward. it suggests the bill is aimed at the important and worthy goal of protecting women's health. but the text of the bill plainly demonstrates that the bill's true objective is to circumscribe america's religious freedoms, religious liberties of individual americans within the narrow confines of the democratic party's partisan agenda. and the whims of politicians and bureaucrats. while maintaining the appearance of preserving all current legal protections of religious freedom in america today, this proposal quietly adds to them a subtle yet deeply problematic and inappropriate qualification. the federal government will not prohibit the free exercise of religion until the federal government decides that it wants to do so. under this bill, your religious liberties stop at the doorstep
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of the democratic national committee. and so i rise today in opposition to this bill because it doesn't do anything to protect women's health and it does much to undermine the tenets of religious leader that have made america the most religiously defense and tolerant nation in human history. although this proposal is only the latest maneuver attempted by my democratic colleagues to assert the power to restrict religious freedom in america, it also represents the culmination, at least for now, of their opposition to 9 supreme court's recent -- to the supreme court's recent ruling in burwell v. hobby lobby. on june 30 of this year, the supreme court ruled that the federal government may not force closely held businesses to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs in order to comply with the contraceptive mandate issued by the u.s. department of health and human services under the patient
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protection and affordable care act. this decision has received a great deal of attention but it has received this attention for all the wrong reasons contrary to what many critics suggested the hobby lobby decision did not promulgate national policy nor did it render any opinion on the virtues of contraception and religious faith. no, the issue in hobby lobby involved not a dispute of competing rights, but a straightforward application of plainly written law. as the constitution states in article 3, section 2, the role of the supreme court is to adjudicate legal dis piets by hearing -- disputes by hearing cases and controversies which arise when two laws or two parties come into conflict. in hobby lobby, the two laws in dispute were the religious
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freedom restoration act passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of congress and signed into law by president clinton in 1993, and a federal mandate issued by the department of health and human services acting under the powers delegated to it by the affordable care act. the religious freedom restoration act, or rfra, as it is sometimes called, reaffirmed americans' commitment to the fundamental religious liberty already protected by our constitution. with rfra, a democratic congress and a democratic president, in cooperation with republican minorities in both houses, declared that when the federal government seeks to infringe on americans' religious liberty, it must clear two thresholds. first, it must show that the law in question serves a compelling state interest. second, if it does, the law must do so by the least restrictive means possible.
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given that the government openly acknowledged that there were a significant number of far less intrusive means to ensure affordable access to the drugs at issue, the supreme court rightly ruled that the contraception mandate violated rfra. however unwarranted, the overheated response to the hobby lobby decision among some ideological extremists on the left has led some of my colleagues to introduce a bill that would not simply overturn that modest and narrow decision but fundamentally rewrite america's social contract as it pertains to matters of personal conscience. whereas the court's ruling was limited to closely held for-profit companies like hobby lobby, this bill would empower the federal government to coerce employers of all faiths and of no faith into violating their deepest personal convictions. it would deny any employer,
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devout or secular, individual or corporate, for-profit or nonprofit, conscience protection under rfra against all present and future government mandates. perhaps most troubling is the warped theory of rights underlying the text of this bill. this theory holds that the american people possess constitutional and legal rights only when acting alone but not when acting in a group. these rights, along with any duties one may hold as a person of faith, must be forfeited whenever acting in association with others on penalty of fines to be paid to the federal government. this view of religious liberty might be summarized as an amendment to matthew chapter 18 verse 20, for where two or three are gathered together in my name, there is the i.r.s. in the midst of them.
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this view is extreme. it's out of touch with the constitution, with common sense and with america's heroic history of religious tolerance. from our earliest days as a country, one of the sources of our strength as a people and one of the reasons for success as a nation has been our robust understanding of religious liberty. the breadth and depth of that conception has allowed people of all faiths and all traditions to live here in friendship and in cooperation with one another. as two members of the u.s. commission of international religious freedom put it -- quote -- "respect for the flourishing of people requires respect for their freedom as individuals and together with others in community, to address the deepest questions of human existence and meaning. this allows them to lead lives of authenticity and integrity by
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fulfilling what they conscientiously believe to be their religious and world duties. it also includes the right to witness to one's beliefs in public as well as in private and to act while respecting the equal right of others to do the same on one's religiously inspired convictions in carrying out the duties of citizenship." close quote. expanding as wide as possible the space in which all people can witness their faith alongside one another has for two centuries elevated, enriched, and united american society. this robust conception of religious liberty was so essential to american unity that not only did the founding generation reinforce its protection in a bill of rights, which many framers actually thought was redundant, but that it was the first freedom articulated in the first amendment. they understood, as most
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americans still do, that the proper role of government is not to define people's happiness but to protect all individuals' equal rights to pursue happiness according to their own hopes and values and conscience. yet, for all its legal and constitutional protections, americans exceptional tradition of religious toleration rests ultimately on the uniquely american principle of equal dignity and respect for all women and all men, not simply as fellow passengers en route to the grave but as fellow pilgrims in search of their own promised land. the authors of this bill know all of this. they know the american people reject their intolerance of diversity and indifference to the first amendment. we know their bill cannot become law. indeed, we know this for a fact because if the regulations they
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support were actually written in the law, obamacare itself would never have passed. it was slipped in after the fact by bureaucrats who are not subject to public accountability and never stand for election. this legislation is more than an insult to the people it would target. it is an embarrassment to the party leadership that has embraced it. i still hold fast to the principle and to the freedom it preserves and, thus, strongly urge my colleagues to vote against this bill. thank you, mr. president.
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mr. lee: mr. president, i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call: the presiding officer: the senator from connecticut. a senator: i ask that we dispense with the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. murphy: thank you, mr. president. we are entering into a new era in which five men on the supreme court are going to get to make
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decisions about what kind of health care you get as a matter of right living under the protection of the laws of the united states and what kind of health care you get as an employee at the whim of the decisions made by your boss. these are the kind of decisions that your boss should be making, decisions about the direction of your company, decisions about the level of your salary, about new products that your business is going to offer. this shouldn't be your boss' decision. it shouldn't be up to your boss as to whether or not you as a female employee get access to prescription contraception or not. but that's the world that we live in today after the supreme court in a 5-4 decision has given the power to particular employers to deny women access to prescription birth control,
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prescription birth control contraception is used by 99% of women in this country at one point over their life. a big portion of those prescriptions are actually for purposes related to complicated medical treatments like cancer therapies. and no matter how the supreme court tries to explain this, there is no way to effectively differentiate what the supreme court has done on birth control with a whole another range of potential discrimination. as justice ginsburg said in her dissent, this exemption that the supreme court has given for employers' religious beliefs would extend logically with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions held by jehovah's witnesses, to religious objections to antidepressants held by scientologists, medications derived from pigs including
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anesthesia, intravenous fluids, pills coated with jell at in-- gelatin held by certain religions, even vaccinations held by others. the idea that the supreme court is going to get in the business of micromanaging which particular religious beliefs they are going to protect and which ones they aren't going to protect is unacceptable to the majority of people that i represent. and so that's why i'm here today to support the women's health from corporate interference act. it's pretty simple. all we're saying here is that employers shouldn't be allowed to refuse coverage, health coverage that are guaranteed to their employees and their dependents under federal law. when we decide to pass a law with the majority of the house and the senate agreeing to it, signed by the president, those protections should be available to all employees. it's not easy to pass a law and get it signed by the president. the founding fathers set up a
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lot of pretty significant barriers to passage of any law, never mind a law that guarantees a certain level of health care coverage. and up until the hobby lobby decision, the supreme court had stayed out of that decision, said if the united states congress decides that a minimum level of coverage should be available to employees, then employers shouldn't be able to get in the way. that precedent has now blown up, and there is really no going back as justice ginsburg has said. i hope that we pass it this week. and the reality is is that it's more important now than ever to protect this coverage, because as a result of the affordable care act, there are millions more women, millions more families all across this country who have access to prescription contraception. 24 million more prescriptions for oral contraceptives were filled without a co-pay in 2013 than in 2012. that's by virtue of the protections in the affordable
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care act. on this particular type of prescription alone, the affordable care act has saved $483 million in out-of-pocket costs for oral contraceptives. that's saved a lot of families money, but it's also gained access to this important medication for millions of women. mr. president, it's just another example, just another piece of evidence amidst a mounting pile that tells us that the affordable care act is working today. and so, mr. president, i want to spend just a few additional minutes going over the latest litany of good news when it comes to the implementation of the affordable care act. republicans have kind of gone quiet, silent even in many parts of the nation when it comes to their critique of the affordable care act, and that is in large
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part because on both sides of the aisle there is a quiet acceptance that the affordable care act is working. it has vanished from most campaigns as a political issue this summer and this fall because it is increasingly impossible, aside from anecdotal evidence, to make the case on an i am peer cal data-driven basis basis -- an -- senator reid did a little bit of this earlier this week, but i want to share with you again some of the new numbers that we have. here is maybe the most stunning number. the uninsured rate in the united states fell 2.2 percentage points in the second quarter of 2014. we now have the lowest quarterly rate of uninsured in this country since gallup began tracking this percentage in 2008. there are approximately 20% to
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25% less people and families in this country without insurance than six months ago. that is absolutely stunning that in sick months of implementation of this act, we have taken one quarter off the rolls of the uninsured -- roles of the uninsured in this country. even the biggest optimists about how the implementation of the affordable care act was going to go couldn't have guessed that we were going to take that big a chunk out of the rolls of the uninsured. but here is more evidence that it is working. 57% of the individuals who purchased coverage through the exchanges were uninsured when they were enrolled, so a lot of republicans said well, you know, the big numbers that you're seeing, eight million people uninsured through the private health care exchanges, well, that must just be people shifting from one kind of insurance to another. a kaiser study says that in fact
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almost six out of ten of the people who got insurance in the exchanges through the medicaid through staying on their parents' insurance had no insurance beforehand. frankly, to my mind, it doesn't necessarily matter because to the extent they went on these plans coming off another plan, it was for a reason. they were saving money by and large. that's a good thing in and of itself. but you have four out of ten people going onto the new plans because you can save them money. six out of ten people coming onto the new plans because they have no insurance at all, and they are getting care as well. a new commonwealth fund survey says that 60% of the adults with this new coverage through the marketplace or medicaid reported that they had visited a hospital or a doctor or filled a prescription, and 62% of those people said that they couldn't have access or afforded this care previously. that was the theory, is that there are all of these people who were waiting to get so sick that they had to go to the emergency room, costing us all sorts of money in the long run, that now can get preventative
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care. of the 60% of people who went out and saw a doctor because of the new coverage they had by virtue of the affordable care act, 60% of them said they would never have gotten that care had they not had that coverage. that's millions of people, millions of people all across the country who are going to have an injury or an illness, are going to sit at home and live with it until it got so bad they had to show up to the emergency room, they are now getting care. what are the premiums? people said well, you know, these premiums are going to be unaffordable. people will start paying them and then stop paying them. well, h.h.s. did a survey of the premiums and found on average that the monthly premium that people are paying is $82 per month after a tax credit is factored in. listen, $82 a month is not pocket change. there are a lot of families out there who have trouble coming up with $82 a month. but for somebody like suzy clayton, a breast cancer survivor from north canaan, connecticut, that's a big deal. she is paying right about that number, $90 per month. prior to the affordable care act
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because she had a preexisting condition, suzy clayton was spending $1,600 per month. and there are hundreds of thousands of other suzy claytons out there. premiums are pretty affordable. well, the critics said all right, we'll concede that more people are getting covered, we'll concede that they are using the care, we'll concede that the premiums are affordable, in part because you're spending all of this money on premium assistance, but you're going to just start spiraling health care costs. well, that didn't come true either. with april's updated c.b.o. projections, spending on major federal health care programs, medicare, medicaid and the a.c.a. subsidies, has now been revised down wrda by $900 billion. that's .5% of g.d.p. since the 2011 projections. so in three years, c.b.o. has pushed down its projections of ten-year spending by
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$900 billion. here is an even more stunning way to think about this. if you look at what c.b.o. said we were going to spend on a per-medicare recipient basis in 2010 versus what they now say that we are going to spend on that recipient today over the next ten years, that per-medicare recipient spending level has been decreased by $1,000. we're spending $1,000 less per medicare recipient. now, that doesn't have anything to do with the private exchanges. that has to do with all of the other provisions in the bill that start to shift health care spending away from a system that rewards volume, how much medicine do you practice to a system that rewards outcomes. how good is the medicine you're practicing? are you keeping your patients healthy? and so the reality is that spending is remarkably low, historically low on health care. admittedly some of that is because of an economy that has
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been slow to recover over the course of the last six years, but a lot of that is because of the affordable care act, so much so that i saw an article in "the wall street journal" the other day, mr. president, that said that the president was to blame for the slow economy because he had been so successful in pushing down the rate of health care spending that now it was -- it was an economic catastrophe that we were spending so much less than we had initially projected on health care. so there is no way for this president to win if health care expenses spiral and premiums spiral, it's his fault, but if he does something to control health care premiums and health care costs, then it's a drag on the economy. in the long run, the truth of the matter is that if we get health care spending down, really just a transfer payment within our economy, then we have the room to spend more money on much more necessary investments in our infrastructure, in our
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scientific edge over other countries. so i am here to say that i support the underlying bill because i think it's the right thing to do for women in this country, but also because it is part of a growing success story of the affordable care act. $500 million saved on prescription contraception alone, but add that to all of the other evidence and we're living in a world in which it is increasingly hard to argue that the affordable care act is working. millions more people covered. huge chunks out of the uninsured rolls being eliminated. costs for overall health care expenses decreasing. and i won't even get into it this afternoon, but quality improving as well. less people having hospital-acquired infections, having to be readmitted to the hospital. and the supports just keep on coming in. i certainly understand on an
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anecdotal basis can you find people who have had negative experiences with the health care system under the affordable care act, but you know what? i could find millions of those people before the affordable care act was passed as well, but there are many more people like sean and emily hanon who are two freelancers from weston, connecticut, who were looking for coverage previous to the affordable care act being passed. the best that they could do was $1,500 per month from the golden rule. when they heard about the affordable care act, they called up the connecticut exchange and they found a plan through connecticut care that was going to cost them $309 a month. this is a fairly young couple. a savings of nearly 80% compared to what they used to pay. that is the story that can be replicated millions of times over all across this country. we would be wise this week to restore this protection to women across this country so that they have access to affordable prescription birth control. that is just one part of a
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growing overwhelming array of both success stories and positive data about the implementation of the affordable care act, proving that the a.c.a. works. mr. president, i would yield the floor. and note the absence of a quorum, mr. president. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from wyoming. mr. barrasso: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. barrasso: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i come to the floor today to respond to some of the comments by the senator from connecticut, and specifically with regard to the health care law. and i come with an interest because i did part of my medical training in that state, still have many friends who practice medicine in connecticut and feel
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from the comments i hear from them that they see a very different side of the picture than what we hear from the senator from connecticut. you know, for some time now republicans have been talking about the terrible side effects of the president's health care law. the senator from connecticut made some references to a family who certainly may have been helped by the health care law, but there are clearly people in that state that are being harmed by the health care law. in the past i've spoken on this floor about a story in "the washington post" about how the health care law is hurting families all across connecticut. the article said that two insurers -- two insurance carriers in the senator's home state of connecticut have proposed increasing their health insurance premiums by an average of about 12%. i didn't hear the senator from connecticut make reference to that today. so some people will have smaller increases than the average, but many people in connecticut are going to pay much more.
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that's an expensive side effect that families are going to have to deal with because of the president's health care law that the democrats in the senate have voted for. well, there's another article a week or so ago in "the hill" newspaper. it was headlined "personal data on obamacare enrollees may be compromised." it says connecticut's health insurance exchange acknowledged friday that the personal data on enrollees may be compromised. someone found a backpack on the street containing data on some individuals. there is a story in the danbury, connecticut, newspaper, headline "affordable care act could cost schools big bucks." i haven't heard the senator from connecticut make reference to that. this could cost school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars they didn't expect to pay.
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so i see that the senator from new york is here, and i don't know if the senator has time locked in. if not, i'd be, want to just speak for a few more moments because this continues to be a major impact. the law includes a special tax on what's called the cadillac plans. these are generous health insurance plans that some people like union workers and police and school employees get some places. another big thing is the way the law defines full-time workers. this is a problem we're seeing a lot of places. employees are considered full-time under the health care law if they work 30 hours a week. so schools, schools that are being impacted are having to provide insurance for those people or cut back their hours, hurting a lot of folks in the senator's home state. and specifically, in the school district and in connecticut. what they're finding out is they're having to pay more money to buy insurance for the people who they can't cut back. the school system in danbury,
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connecticut wrote to the congressional delegation in connecticut asking for help. according to a newspaper story from danbury, he wrote unless there is a reasonable modification to the affordable care act, the president's health care law, there will be a tremendous drain on our limited resources. so when i see the senator from connecticut have a sign that says the health care law works, i would say not for many, many people, and it is harming people, including students in our schools. the law is a drain on resources of schools, towns, counties across the country; very costly side effect of the health care law at a local level. i hear the same from my constituents in wyoming who are seeing similar decisions having to be made, tough choices. and i know the senator from connecticut is hearing it from his constituents like the superintendent of schools in danbury. mr. president, middle-class families are getting smaller paychecks because of the law. school districts are getting stretched thin by the health care law. families are having to pay higher premiums because of the
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health care law. and on top of that, they're being exposed to potential fraud and identity theft in exchanges created by the health care law as evidenced by a backpack found on a street in hartford, connecticut, containing names, social security numbers, home addresses, birth dates of people who signed up for the health care law on the exchange. mr. president, republicans are going to keep talking about these devastating, dangerous side effects of the democrats' health care law. we're going to keep pushing for real health care reform. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. schumer: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: mr. president, i rise today to discuss the protect women's health care from corporate interference act of 2004 introduced by my friends and colleagues, senator murray and senator udall. i'm proud to be a cosponsor of
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this legislation. we are at a critical moment. we witnessed a supreme court decision that curtailed important access to health care for employees across the country. the hobby lobby case has now opened the door for the vast majority of companies and bosses to start denying their employees contraceptive coverage if the owners have a religious objection. we must slam the door shut. to do that, mr. president, this body must set the record straight about the law that the supreme court used to make their decision. the religious freedom restoration act. as one of the original authors of the religious freedom restoration act -- i was the sponsor, the lead sponsor in the house of representatives. senator kennedy was the lead sponsor in the senate. i can say with absolutely certainty that the law has been unwisely stretched by the supreme court to extend religious protections to corporations congress never intended to be covered under the bill.
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i am compelled to do so, mr. president, because several of my colleagues on the other side have come to the floor to defend the hobby lobby decision using my words. these were arguments i made back in 1993 when we passed, first passed the rfra and we were dealing with the protection of individual -- underline individual -- liberties. the quotation they used dealt broadly with the importance of religious freedom of expression in our country. i said the rfra would help restore the american tradition of allowing maximum religious freedom. that is as true today as it was then. i believe strongly in rfra as it was written then as i do now. but it was misinterpreted and wrongly expanded by the supreme court. when my colleagues use this quotation as a point of argument, they completely miss the point of the debate. the debate is not about the conflict between freedom of religious expression and government mandated health
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coverage. that's a false choice. the debate is really whether or not the supreme court appropriately interpreted the rfra in applying it to profit-making corporations. as the author of the bill, i can say again with absolute certainty, the supreme court got the hobby lobby case dead wrong. when we wrote rfra back in 1993, we did so to protect that which individuals with strong beliefs had always enjoyed. the presumption that they should be able to exercise their religious beliefs without interference from the government. but the court took that protection and misapplied it to for-profit companies who exist for the purpose of benefiting from the open market. the hobby lobby decision marks a sharp departure both from the intent of rfra and prior judicial interpretations of rfra. the supreme court got it wrong. that is why this bill authored by my colleagues from washington
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and colorado is of paramount importance to clarify the law and restore protections for employees that were stripped away by this wrongheaded supreme court decision. my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will continue to assert this is just another assault by democrats on free exercise of religion or peddle other falsehoods. so, mr. president, i'd like to clearly explain what this bill will and won't do. this bill will ensure that companies cannot deny their workers any health benefits including birth control as required to be covered by federal law. this bill will make it clear that bosses cannot discriminate against their female workers, ensuring equal treatment under the law for tens of thousands of workers whose coverage hangs in the balance. this bill is not only about birth control. the hobby lobby decision has implications for other health services, and now this bill will ensure all covered employees have access to all necessary
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health care. not only contraceptives, but also blood transfusions, antidepressants, vaccines. the bill does not require churches or nonprofit organizations to provide contraceptive coverage even when they object on religious grounds. the affordable care exemption -- process for nonprofit organizations with a religious mission is unchanged by this bill. this bill will not allow new laws that can target specific religious groups. the bill only applies to health care. and most importantly, this bill does not -- does not -- restrict the constitution's first amendment right to the free exercise of religion. the bill only clarifies the relative weight the court should give when two federal statutes such as the affordable care act and the religious freedom restoration act come into conflict. as i continue to say, rfra was intended to give individuals --
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individuals who profess strong religious beliefs what they had always enjoyed, the strong presumption that they should be able to exercise their religious beliefs without government interference. rfra was not intended to extend the same protection to for-profit corporations whose very purpose is to profit from the open market. the supreme court's cavalier decision to grant religious rights to closely held corporations could curtail the health care freedom of women at as many as 90% of american businesses. by putting health care decisions in the hands of a woman's boss instead of a woman and her doctor, the division creates a slippery slope that could affect tens of millions of americans, our daughters, our wives, in the future. we need this bill to clarify the law and firmly protect a woman's right to access essential health care. and i thank my colleagues udall and murray for offering this legislation.
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i urge my colleagues to support this effort to protect women's health care and religious freedom. thank you, mr. president. and i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from texas. mr. cruz: mr. president, i rise today to speak about one of the saddest developments in the united states senate, namely, the all-out assault on the first
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amendment being led by senate democrats. it's important to clarify what the issue before this body is not about. the issue before this body is not about access to contraceptives despite a whole lot of politicking by senate democrats to suggest to the contrary. in this body, the number of people who would do anything to restrict access to contraceptives to anybody is zero. let me repeat that. there is no one in this body, there is no one i am aware of across the country who is advocating restricting anyone's access to contraceptives. mr. president, my wife and i are blessed with two little girls. i'm very glad we don't have 17. nobody, nobody, nobody is talking about restricting access to contraceptives. what are we talking about? what we are talking about is the federal government using brute
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force to force people to pay for abortion-inducing drugs of others against their religious faith. that's extraordinary. it is remarkable and it is dismaying. mr. president, i'm sorry to show you what the current first amendment looks like in the wake of the democrats' assault on the first amendment. the senate judiciary committee, we have been debating an amendment some 47 democrats have supported that would repeal the free speech protections of the first amendment. sadly, every senate democrat in the judiciary committee supported it. today this body is considering another provision that would effectively cross out the free exercise rights. where have we entered when the bill of rights has become a partisan matter? what kind of world is it used to be the case that you would find
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bipartisan agreement that the first amendment is part of our civil compact, that we will stand together with one voice in support of the free speech rights of individual citizens, in support of the religious liberty rights of individual citizens. the proposal that we are going to vote on in just a few minutes would go directly after the religious liberty rights of americans. let me tell you a little bit about one group of people who will be affected by this bill if this bill were to pass. let me tell you about the little sisters of the poor, a group of catholic nuns, the little sisters of the poor are an international congregation of roman catholic women founded in 1839 by st. jane judin. their aim is to offer the needy
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of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as christ, cared for as family, and accompanied with dignity until god calls them himself. mr. president, the bill that is being voted on on this floor would shut these nuns down. the bill that is being voted on on this floor, if it were adopted, would fine the little sisters of the poor millions of dollars unless these catholic nuns are willing to pay for abortion-producing drugs for others. mr. president, when did the democratic party declare war on the catholic church? and let me note, this is not hypothetical. i'm not suggesting in theory this might be applied to the little sisters of the poor. right now, today, the obama administration is litigating against the little sisters of the poor, trying to force them to pay for abortion-producing
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drugs and threatening to shut the little sisters of the poor down. how far have we come from the basic bipartisan agreement in favor of religious liberty? faith finds -- faith fines should have no place in american society. the little sisters of denver which provides approximately 67 full-time jobs has said that it will incur penalties of roughly $6,700 per day or nearly $2.5 million per year if it chooses to stay true to its religious beliefs. $2.5 million a year in faith fines, fines to catholic nuns who are devoting their time to caring for the elderly and providing health care for the elderly. that is more than one-third of
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their $6 million annual budget each year. what has become of the democratic party? when did they become so extreme that they would actually propose fining nuns millions of dollars if they're unwilling to pay for abortion-producing drugs of others? that is not a mainstream position. that is a radical, that is an extreme position. i would encourage every one of my colleagues on the democratic side of the aisle to ask yourself how are you going to answer your constituents when your constituent stands up and says senator, why did you vote in favor of a law that would fine catholic nuns millions of dollars if they refuse to pay for abortion-producing drugs of others? let me make a basic suggestion. if you're litigating against nuns, you have probably done something wrong, and the obama administration is doing so right now.
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mr. president, drop your faith fines. mr. majority leader, drop your faith fines. to all of my democratic colleagues, drop your faith fines. get back to the shared values that stitch all of us together as americans. i call upon my democratic colleagues to stop playing election year politics. i recognize scaring women by suggesting someone's coming after your birth control may be good politics. it's false. even "the washington post" has said it's false and a lie. but election year politics should not trump religious liberty. senate democrats should not wage war on the catholic church. it's not just the nuns who are dismayed. the catholic bishops have said the proposed bill -- quote -- "does not befit a nation to manage religious liberty and would allow the government to --
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quote -- override religious freedom rights of americans regarding health coverage. so it's not just the nuns. it's the catholic bishops. the democratic party said your free exercise of religion rights have no place in a democratic senate. the catholic bishops went on to say -- quote -- "if in the future the executive branch chose to add the abortion pill rudd -- ru-486 or even elective surgical abortion including late-term abortion to the list of coverages, those who object to providing such coverage would appear to have no recourse. mr. president, think about that for a second. the catholic bishops just said the bill this body is getting ready to vote on, if passed would enable the federal government to try to force catholic nuns to pay for and carry out partial-birth
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abortion. that's staggering. you want to talk about mainstream positions. there are mainstream positions, there are far left positions and there is extreme radical fringe which is the federal government forcing catholic nuns to pay for partial-birth abortions. and that's where virtually every senate democrat is today. under the legislation before this body, the catholic university ave maria would be forced to make the same choice -- authorize abortion-inducing drugs right now or pay millions of dollars in fines to the united states government. as ave maria president jim tooey has said -- quote -- "ave maria pays 95% of the health plans we offer our employees. under the federal plan, ave maria would be paying for these drugs if we comply with the law, so we will not. mr. president, every senate democrat who votes yes in a few minutes will be voting to fine ave maria catholic university millions of dollars simply for standing true to their faith. that's a vote that should
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embarrass any member of this body. mr. tooey went on to say -- quote -- "we are prepared to discontinue our health plan and pay the $2,000 per employee per-year fine rather than comply with an unjust, immoral mandate in violation of our rights of conscious. belmont abbey college, another proud religious school, founded by benedictine monks. the democrats have put them in the same predicament. the democrats' legislation would force belmont abbey college to pay $20,000 a day in faith fines. mr. president, faith fines have no place in our democracy. let me ask again why are democrats so hostile to the catholic church? why are democrats trying to use the federal government to fine catholic institutions for holding true to their religious beliefs? it all comes down to a hardline extreme out of touch position on
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borg. just yesterday, we had a hearing in the senate judiciary committee about legislation so broad that it would set aside state laws providing parental notification for abortion, protecting late-term abortions, mandating taxpayer-funded abortions. these are extreme radical views held by a tiny percentage of the american people, but yet held by a large percentage of democratic activists. and this position would also rip apart the bipartisan legislation that president clinton signed into law in 1993, the religious freedom restoration act passed the senate 97-3. when president clinton signed that act, he said -- quote -- " what rfra basically says is that the government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone's freedom of religion. this judgment is shared by the people of the united states as well as by the congress. we believe strongly that we can never, we can never be too vigilant in this work."
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mr. president, we should listen to the words of bill clinton in 1993, and the senate should back away from this assault on religious liberty. i want to finally note two simple things. in 1997, when the senate considered another assault on the free speech protections of the first amendment, then-senator ted kennedy, liberal lion of the senate, stood up and said we haven't changed the bill of rights in over 200 years and now is no time to start. senator ted kennedy was right in 1997. likewise, president john f. kennedy, in an historic speech to the nation, said -- quote -- "i would not look with favor upon a president working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty." mr. president, where are the kennedys today? does any democrat have the courage to stand up and speak for the first amendment today?
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does any democrat have the courage to stand up and speak for the constitutional rights of practicing catholics? does any democrat have the courage to stand up and speak for the little sisters of the poor? does any democrats have the courage to listen to the catholic conference of bishops? and speak for religious liberty? mr. president, it saddens me that there are not 100 senators here unified, regardless of our faith we stand together protecting the religious liberty rights of everyone. faith fines have no business in our democracy, and, mr. president, i urge every member of this body to vote no on this assault on basic religious liberty of every american. thank you. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the
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senator from colorado. mr. udall: mr. president, i have come to the floor every day this week to talk about my commonsense bill to keep corporate interference out of women's private health decisions. on monday when i was on the floor, i shared the concerns of a denver-based ob/gyn who said that in light of the supreme court's split decision in the hobby lobby case, physicians might now have to consider an employer's religious beliefs when making a medical recommendation to ensure their patients are covered for very basic contraceptive treatments. yesterday, mr. president, i spoke about a colorado mother whose college-aged daughter depended on contraception prescribed by her doctor to help manage a debilitating health condition that often keeps her from attending class. she told me without that coverage through her family's health plan, her daughter would not have had the coverage for a medically necessary treatment.
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women are sharing these stories with me every day. coloradans agree they should not have to ask for a permission slip to be covered by the method of contraception that is best for them. women should be in charge of their health care, not their boss and certainly not a corporation. this week, my colleague from washington state and i called on our colleagues to join us in supporting our bill, the protect women's health from corporate interference act, or the not by boss' business act. our bill is straightforward, it's common sense. it ensures that no does can come between a woman and her access to affordable health care. mr. president, i want to thank my colleagues who have come to the senate floor this week to highlight the importance of passing this bill. in just a few moments, we will be casting our votes as to whether or not we should bring this bill to the floor, so i
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hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle can at least agree that this is a debate worth having. it's a discussion that i know women and men, women and men in every state are encouraging their representatives to have. after bringing this legislation to the floor for a proper debate, if my colleagues then believe that the simple bill to keep a boss' religious beliefs from affecting access to essential health care for millions of american men and women is misguided, then they can vote against it. bosses have no business interfering in women's private health decisions. women have asked us to act. let's act. mr. president, thank you, and i yield the floor.
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the presiding officer: under the previous order, the time until 2:10 p.m. will be equally divided and controlled between the two leaders and their designees. the senator from washington. mrs. murray: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent to reserve the last three minutes of the debate for my time and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: without objection, and the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:

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